Mellon Foundation Awards Pitzer $1.1 Million to Build on Efforts to Support Incarcerated Students

Claremont, Calif. (June 14, 2023)—Pitzer College has been awarded a $1.1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in support of the Critical Justice Education (CJE) program. The grant will enable CJE’s further integration in the Claremont Colleges as well as an expansion of Pitzer’s highly successful Inside-Out program, which offers a radical and striking new approach to prison education efforts.

The Mellon Foundation recently announced the selection of seven recipients of more than $5 million in funding as part of its Higher Education in Prisons program. In addition to Pitzer, recipients include Alliance for Higher Education in Prison, Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison, Operation Restoration, Unlocked Labs, and programs at Villanova University and Loyola University New Orleans.

The grant is a sign of the Mellon Foundation’s continued faith in
Pitzer’s work with incarcerated students.

“We are thrilled and honored to have the Foundation’s continued faith and support in our efforts to improve higher education opportunities for incarcerated students,” said Allen Omoto, Pitzer’s vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty. “In our Inside-Out model, on-campus students take classes alongside incarcerated individuals, creating rich and unexpected opportunities for transformational learning, collaboration, and awareness.”

In 2018 Pitzer received a $1.1 million Mellon grant to establish the CJE program and coordinate collaborative justice education programs across the Claremont Colleges.

The new grant, which is for three years, will enable that work to be amplified through the creation of the Justice Education Center (JEC) across The Claremont Colleges (including Claremont Graduate University, which is a new participant in this effort).

The JEC will oversee the justice education major, the Inside-Out Education program, and foster Claremont faculty and student development and programs. The JEC will also expand educational research and development opportunities for faculty, students, and formerly incarcerated students and alumni.

“There is an intensity to this ‘learning across difference’ approach
that is spectacular for all participating students.”

Nigel Boyle, Inside-Out program director

For Professor Nigel Boyle, who directs Pitzer’s trailblazing Inside-Out program, this second award from the Foundation is an encouraging recognition that education remains vital to addressing mass incarceration in America and around the world.

“Creating a space for integrated higher education programs that bring traditional and incarcerated students together is pedagogically and institutionally radical,” Boyle said. “There is an intensity to this ‘learning across difference’ approach that is spectacular for all participating students.  It’s great that the Mellon Foundation recognizes the power of this initiative.”

A Forbes report on the Mellon announcement notes that a recent survey by the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison shows that “only about 600 of nearly 5,000 state and federal prisons and local jails provided higher education programs.”

For Omoto, such data is a clear indication that programs like Pitzer’s are needed now more than ever.

“Pitzer’s pioneering efforts,” he said, “along with our Claremont Colleges peers provides an important blueprint for how other institutions might join us in expanding educational opportunities while also providing meaningful professional development for faculty.” 

In addition to enhancing its Inside-Out classes and the CJE program, Pitzer College will also continue to explore a College Pathways initiative at the California Rehabilitation Center and with Norco Community College.

About Pitzer College

Pitzer College is a nationally top-ranked undergraduate liberal arts and sciences institution. A member of The Claremont Colleges, Pitzer offers a distinctive approach to a liberal arts education by linking intellectual inquiry with interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility, and community involvement. For more information, please visit

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